Bertshik brud, by Rokhl Boymvol (Minsk: Melukhe-farlag fun vaysrusland, 1936). Illustrator unknown. A Yiddish children’s book in verse, it was one of 18 Yiddish works published by Boymvol during her career in the Soviet Union. (YIVO)

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Boymvol, Rokhl

(1914–2000), Yiddish writer. Rokhl Boymvol was born in Odessa. Her father, Yehude Leyb (1892–1920), a Yiddish playwright and theater director, was murdered by Polish soldiers. A precocious child, Rokhl began rhyming even before she learned to read and write. Her first poetry collection, Kinderlider (Children’s Poems), appeared in Moscow in 1930. The literary critic Moyshe Katz wrote in his introduction, “Rokhl Boymvol is not a wunderkind who surprises by showing that a child can write exactly like a grown-up, seasoned master. She does it even better: in her writings we find what a grown-up master could not have done so honestly and naturally; she shows us the emotions of a maturing child.”

Boymvol graduated from the Yiddish department of the Second Moscow University in 1936, soon becoming an established children’s writer, author of numerous books, such as Pionern (Pioneers; 1934), Lider (Poems; 1936), and Vaynshl-beymer blien (Cherry Trees Are Blooming; 1939). In all, 18 Yiddish volumes (not all of them for children) were published during the four decades of her Soviet literary career. In the 1940s, she followed the similar path taken by Leyb Kvitko and Shike Driz, transcending Yiddish readership and occupying a visible place in Soviet children’s literature. Her works were translated into Russian and other languages (in Russian, she was known as Rakhil’ Baumvol’).

During World War II, Russian became Boymvol’s second language for creative activity. In fact, it was the only language she could rely upon in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when all Yiddish publications were suppressed in the Soviet Union and many of her colleagues were imprisoned. Siniaia varezhka (Blue Mitten; 1955) was one of her numerous Russian titles published between 1943 and 1970; some of her works had print runs of up to 1.75 million. Yet during a meeting with foreign delegates to the 1957 Moscow Youth Festival, Boymvol advocated the revival of Yiddish publications. From 1961, she was an active contributor to Sovetish heymland.

Boymvol’s only son, Iulius Telesin, a dissident activist, applied for emigration to Israel in 1969. Boymvol and her husband, the Yiddish poet Ziame Telesin, decided to follow him, triggering a slanderous attack upon them in 1971 in Sovetish heymland, edited by Arn Vergelis. To ridicule them, the journal published samples of their Soviet patriotic poetry in its September issue; in the December issue, the poet Motl Grubyan alleged that the couple had collaborated with the secret police during the Stalinist repressions. In Israel, Boymvol for the most part wrote poetry for adults, although poems and prose for children continued to play a significant place in her literary output. She also continued to write and publish in Russian.

Suggested Reading

Yosef Kerler, “Dos vunder fun a groys gezang,” Yidishe shriftn 3 (1964): 8; Larisa Rozina, “Shagal v iubke,” Forverts (Russian) (7–13 June 2002); David Sfard, Mit zikh un mit andere (Jerusalem, 1984), 314–319.